01 July 2012

Completely disinherited

I was out at State Records the other day, looking at probate records. One of the families I looked into was the Macindoes, as a result of this post. I will write about the results of that investigation another time, however this current post deals with one of the biggest surprises of the day.

Ruth Bevan Macindoe (1899-1979), my first cousin twice removed, was the second child of Norman and Mary Macindoe. She studied medicine at the University of Sydney during the late 1910s, early 1920s. She travelled to England in 1922 with her sister Mary (and presumably back again because she died in Australia), and then the trail goes cold.

The family story goes that, with her medical training, she diagnosed herself with a severe mental illness and had herself committed. I've not been able to find any record of her residence in a mental institution, but that's unlikely anyway because health records are closed for 110 years. Certainly, she disappeared without a trace. All her siblings, male and female, voted in elections (voting in elections is compulsory in Australia), Ruth did not. If she was in a mental institution she may well have been exempt from voting.

Her father's will provided for all his children except her. In fact, the typed will has a handwritten addition to it where, in setting out the share for each of the daughters and sons, it says "except for my daughter Ruth Bevan Macindoe who is to be completely disinherited".

Was it because she had brought disgrace to the family by having a mental illness? One could expect that it might be a very good reason to actually provide for her and for her care, but apparently not. If you were worried that she wasn't of sound mind and therefore unable to look after any money she might inherit then surely you could provide for her care. One family member who I talked to about this said that there were certain things in the family that just weren't spoken of, and so she didn't really have much of an idea of what became of Ruth Bevan Macindoe.

Ruth died in 1979 at the age of 80. There was no death or funeral notice published. Unlike her unmarried sisters she was not buried with her parents.

I don't know that I will ever find out exactly why Ruth Bevan Macindoe was completely disinherited by her father. It is a very sad tale and I guess we can only hope that attitudes to mental illness continue to change for the better.


  1. What a shame she wasn't in Qld Prue as Judy Webster has asylum indexes. hope you find Ruth one day as it sounds like an interesting conundrum.

  2. Are there cemetery or undertaker's records as these might provide a clue and more likely to give you access.

  3. Pauleen, I will admit that I haven't done a comprehensive search of every single cemetery in Sydney, but I also thought that she could well have been cremated in 1979 and therefore there may not be any record to find...